Become The Duet [Revisited]: Poem: Celtic Connectedness

20170912 BECOME THE DUET REVISITEDBeing in london for a while longer, I miss the wilderness of Capel Curig, north Wales. Capel Curig has such a wild-peace about it, and London by contrast is hectic. And, right now, though I miss the solitude, London is where I am. However, it is an amazing city.

The drawback is that it can be overwheleming, and ‘up close and personal’. It can be full of disctractions which pull you in competing directions, and yet for myself, one who loves the countryside and the lights of London, an ‘amphibian’, London is a wonderful, inspiring city.

But, oh the distractions. It’s easy to forget to ask those big questions, easy to forget to pause and ponder, easy to forget why each one of us is here. In London, a crowded city of eight million souls all of that is so, so easy. I am surmising it may be the same where you are (sometimes)?.

We can get so busy ‘doing’, instead of ‘being’.

We can get distracted.

We forget.

Status?

Here’s a poem I write some time ago, revisited.

Poem: Become The Duet

If we were to travel from the wild, ruggedness of Capel Curig,
near the foothills of Yr Wyddfa,
that place of green, of open-space, of dragons, myth and power;
Myrddin’s lair.

If we were to travel to the busy-ness of Old London,
that place of the ancient river of the Celts,
of crowded streets, of neon lights, Druid-energy and oh-so many people,
the Voice can be heard.

If we were to pause,
wherever we are, just for one moment,
to revel in life that is happening around us, to us, in us, through us,
we would hear the Voice.

Distractions come,
and a distancing from all that is natural seems to happen.
But, only seemingly, so.
The Voice that spoke creation into being,
thunders in the wilderness, whispers in built-up places,
but speaks, still.
The Voice can be heard, if….
…if we have ears to hear.

If we would but listen to the music of our life,
our body would sway in time to the primal beat of times of old.
If we would but gaze at beauty around us,
our mind would laugh crazily with delight at the colours seen.
If we would but ponder, and feel deep within our soul
the love-song of the Friend,
then we would know the reason why we are here.

Become the duet.

 

Developing ‘Soft Eyes’: Kataphatic ‘Day-Dreaming’

20170817 DEVELOPING SOFT EYES KATAPHATICRecently I mentioned about my childhood adventures with friends in north Wales, and how our imaginations ran riot. Oh, how we loved mystery. Then, albeit an adventurous and daring group of boys and girls, like most children, there was a limit. And beyond our physical comfort-zone, our immediate locale, lay the ‘even more’ mysterious area that we, as children, called ‘Yr ardal anhysbys’ or the ‘unknown place’ (see here).

And then, we all – you and I – grew and matured, and we generally lost that ability of childlike perception and love of mystery. Busyness or disinterest set in, or we became so mature that we might have believed all previous ideas were naive, or perhaps we became fearful. And, bit by bit we forgot to use our imaginations as a child does.

In that previous article I mentioned an Anishinabe (First Nations) man from Canada wrote:

‘The Four-Leggeds and the Windged Ones live to a different rhythm. Theirs is the rhythm of soft eyes and soft feet. Two-Leggeds have hard eyes and hard feet. When most humans go into the forest they enter with so much of the world on them that any possibility of feeling the sacred is removed. When we go into the forest we must become soft like the animal people and the tree people’.

As adults I would suggest that we can recover our childhood ‘soft eyes’, and rekindle that ‘focus’ on the mystery that is around us, and ‘see beyond’, with the use of kataphatic and apophatic ‘day-dreaming’.

‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley

Yes, I’m sitting in my little garden in my London apartment, and there’s one candle lit on the garden table. I’m in a restful mood, and my eyes keep half-closing. It’s not tiredness. it’s just that I am quite relaxed and very comfortable. And as I look at the candle, my mind thinks about its light, its warmth, how small but significant it is, and then my mind wanders to consider the light that a lighthouse emits and how useful to mariners they are. Somewhat of giant leap from candle to lighthouse, I know, but such is the imagination and its strength.

And, that is an example of kataphatic thinking.  It’s about thinking on an object or theme, and mulling it over deeply to an end.

This way of thinking is vital if we are to rekindle that childhood perception and to view the world around us with the ‘soft eyes’ of exploring mystery, rather than only use the analytical eyes of modernity.

Now some might call it kataphatic meditation or contemplation and that may upset some or make others fearful, and so, in this instance I’d like to call it kataphatic day-dreaming, because we all day-dream at times. And, usually we’re quite comfortable with the idea of day-dreaming and are familiar with it.

This kind of thinking around a theme or dwelling on object, in my case a candle, has many uses and there are so many exercises that are of benefit to develop that skill. It is much-beloved by advertisers, who months ago on tv and in magazines will have ‘seeded’ your imagination with thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, a new car or the latest fashion, even without you knowing it sometimes.

Did you know, for instance, that August Kekulé, a German organic chemist (1829-1896) said that he discovered the ring-shape of the benzene molecule after having a day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is an ancient symbol known as the ouroboros)?

We might use this kind of kataphatic day-dreaming to imagine a story – maybe ‘putting ourself into the story’. It is one thing to objectively read a portion of sacred text or part of the chronicle of a latter-day hero who may have fought with dragons and to consider it analytically, but it is entirely another thing to ‘enter’ the story using our imagination. Then, we can ‘picture’ ourself as a bystander or having a significant role in the account, and imagining our interactions as well as the sights, sounds and smells etc that we might encounter. We might ask ourselves what we would have done? Isn’t that a function of those ancient parables and koans eg ‘Consider this….’. Isn’t this very much like some of the St Ignatian programs and imaginative exercises that many churches and faith groups use and are finding so useful? We can learn so much more this way.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

And, ofcourse, for those wanting to be a good footballer, who hasn’t had an imaginary conversation with their footballer-hero of yesteryear and asked for hints on how to improve their game, or who, as a writer, hasn’t imagined going back in time to interview Shakespeare and ask him for writing hints or tips, or imagined Sherlock Holmes peering over their shoulder to assist with a knotty plot problem? You havent? You should try it.

And if you do try one of those examples above, or perhaps you might like to try kataphatic day-dreaming in a forest, your local park or your garden to be at one with nature, then allow yourself to be fully immersed in the moment and let thoughts come and go, and ‘play’ with your imagination. Make copious notes at the end of that time, rather than as you go along, as that will ‘draw you out of the moment’, and dispel the ‘magic’ of your newly kindled imagination. Enjoy it.

‘Set your imagination free and do your best to keep up with it.’  A R Fagundes

Developing ‘soft eyes’ to appreciate nature and the mystery around us, to gain wisdom and nature-peace, healing, guidance, energy, the awareness of Presence and more, with the use of the imagination is a good start. Try it!

This is one small aspect of kataphatic day-dreaming’, and something we’ll come back to over the next few weeks (perhaps with the addition of local and online workshops etc).

This is a brief outline of kataphatic ‘day-dreaming’. There’s so much more. And, tomorrow, we’ll look at Apophatic day-dreaming.

 

The Unbelievable Strangeness of Soul

20170814 THE UNBELIEVEABLE STRANGENESS OF SOULI’m back in London after a few days break, and I’m in my inner London apartment, which is graced with a back garden (some would call it a yard), and though small it may be, it is greatly appreciated by me as a modest space to imbibe a steaming hot cup of coffee, read a good book, and in the evening or early night hours, like now, it’s a good place to rest with a few candles burning away to provide light, and to think.

The last few days have been relaxed. Very busy before that – hence the need to get away for a few days – and the next few days have the potential to be ever-so busy, and more so, if I let them. I’m not going to let that happen. As far as possible I intend to pace myself, plan ahead, and move smoothly through some complex issues regarding house-selling.

But, at times it can feel like a distant storm is approaching, such is modern life today. However, here in my small patch of garden or yard, I’m at peace. Come what may, we determine the effect events have on us.

And right now, ‘it is well with my soul’.

In the twilight, with nearby lamp posts just lighting up, their light is harsh and abrasive. The candle-light offers no competition, and is gentle and seems to hark back to more leisurely times. Candle light, just is. In the fast pace that modern life can move at, the soul can be buffeted even without us knowing. Buffeted, fragmented, parts lost, chipped away. The soul is indeed a vital part of ‘us’ some would say, and delicate, but one many do not consider at all.

‘I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
and held it to the mirror of my eye,
to see it like a star against the sky. Claude McKay)

There is a notion that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And, it certainly seems that our soul resides behind our eyes, and in our skull. For those that are unsure about soul nature, that’s a good start. But, I do believe the soul is stranger than that. There’s more.

Why should we surmise that our soul is behind our eyes and located in a small ‘box’ where our brain resides? Like most people, the idea is that the soul, infact, inhabits part of the body.

The candles on the garden table number seven distinct, small candles and yet their light travels far. At first, their light seemed to travel just a few inches, but now it seems their flickering light can be measured in yards or metres. The change is no real change at all. The candle light travelled just as far as it ever did. What changed was my perception of their light and the ‘acclimatisation’ of my eyes.

Strangeness #1: Could it be that your soul doesn’t inhabit your body, but that your body inhabits a much larger and all-pervading soul, and that your soul is the size of an apartment block? Ofcourse, the soul is immaterial, but to be ‘materially-minded’ for a moment, yes, your soul is bigger than your physical body. I think so.

Have you ever looked deeply into someone’s eyes, and had that ‘ocular swap’ episode, that sensation, feeling or ‘shock’ where you can see (of feel) yourself looking back, even for a moment? And that may happen in rapid succession in a few seconds?

The idea that the soul is separate may be useful at times and it may be the dominant view in our society – but then we live in an individualistic age – but it isn’t the best way of looking at the soul.

Some of the small candles on the garden table are flickering, spluttering and for a moment one or two emit less light, and yet no shadow is cast. Together, whether glowing at brightly or reduced in light, they work together.

Strangeness #2: There is also a soul-connectedness to other people. It’s as if, as we move pass people (whether physical or otherwise) we ‘connect’ and influence them, and they affect us. Sometimes, just their presence does that.

‘…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40b

And, perhaps there’s some reciprocity occurring. What we do, send, think about others comes back to us. Perhaps, by way of analogy, our soul appears individually like the spokes on the outer rim of a wheel, so that we can see another soul at a short distance on the rim, so to speak. And, then as we travel nearer the hub our souls become ‘closer’ and entwined, so that we are ‘soulishly’ connected to each other.

Strangeness #3: ‘Soulishly’, we are all connected to One! But, there’s more. At the hub we become one with the Hub of All, that which some might call the Source of All. Simultaneously individual, and yet connected and entwined, and yet One!

‘There is something strange, hidden in the symmetry of the soul. When you diminish another person, you diminish yourself. When you diminish yourself, you diminish others’. John O’Donohue.

It’s late. The air is cooling, and it’s time to take the now-cold cup of coffee and book indoors. Extinguishing the candle-light the garden or yard (I like to think of it as a small garden) is plunged into darkness. No more light. No more analogies. Except that speeding away from the little garden table, and at the speed of light, that candle-light is indeed continuing on a journey, unbeknownst to me, but seen by others if there were twenty light-seconds away. [I worked it out: potential observers would be about 3.75million miles away, and would just now be seeing me extinguish the candles].

Perhaps I can ‘sneak’ in another strange theory (Strangeness #4) that: however it looks from our perspective, the soul continues on, just like that candle light.

And, then, as an after-thought. Our language has limits (hence the use of analogies and metaphors) and our journey into the strangeness of the soul is  a slow one – slow is good – and so in talking about us having a soul, perhaps we should bear in mind, as a timely reminder, the words of C S Lewis.

‘You do not have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.’ C S Lewis